VIRGINIA BEACH — The recount here is underway, with more than 100 people rehashing more than 170,000 ballots in a high-ceiling conference room at the Municipal Center.
With no precedent to go on, judges, attorneys, court clerks, and election officials have all jockeyed for input on the process now governing the city’s first multiple election recount. The rules are now agreed upon, and the city’s precedent-setting recount contains a lot of moving parts — and people.
Here’s what the process looks like.
Who’s in the recount room
The conference room in Building 19 of the Municipal Center is operating as the city’s recount room. The public may attend the process, but have restricted access and are not allowed near the ballots.
There are 10 tables with seven people seated at each — two volunteer election officials for each of the three elections being recounted, and one deputy circuit court clerk. The clerks handle the transporting of the ballots and pass them out to the election officials at the table.
Each pair of election officials is responsible for reviewing the same race on each ballot throughout the recount. Here’s how the ballot handling works:
- The deputy court clerk at each table hands a ballot to the first election official, who then reviews the ballots and makes a determination for that election; the second official in that pair confirms the ballot or challenges it.
- If either of the two officials do not agree, it is considered “challenged” ballot, according to the rules laid out by the election board. Challenged ballots receive a tab that marks them as disputed.
- After the pair of election officials have reviewed their race on the ballot, the next pair reviews their respective election on the ballot, and so on.
- Once officials have reviewed all three races, the ballot is passed back to the deputy court clerk for that table and a tally is kept for each election.
- Challenged and confirmed ballots are placed in separate bins. The challenged ballots are sent off to the three-judge panel overseeing the recount, lead by Virginia Beach Circuit Court Chief Judge Glenn Croshaw.
- The judges then review the ballot and rule on the voter’s intent.
All volunteer election officials involved in recount are registered voters who worked the polls during the 2018 election. They were sworn-in just before the recount began.
Who are those people hanging around the ballots?
Each of the six City Council candidates were allowed to select one observer per pair of re-counters for their race. With three pairs of re-counters at each of the 10 tables — one for each recount — the six candidates had the opportunity to select 60 people to observer the recount on the floor at any given time. Their job is to simply watch.
“Recount observers are merely observing the process” and are not authorized to participate in the recount in any other way, said Virginia Beach Circuit Court Clerk Tina Sinnen, who is responsible for the overall security of the recount Monday. That means observers are:
- Not to touch the tables where ballots are handled, and must remain behind recount officials seated at the table.
- Prohibited from touching election officials in anyway — even a tap on the shoulder.
- Discouraged from conversing on the floor.
- Prohibited from touching ballots at all
- If ballot falls on the floor, observers may not pick it up and must alert members of deputy court clerks or election officials
The city recounted 17 of 101 precincts on Monday “and I consider that a victory,” Sinnen said.
The recount will continue this week, starting at 8:30 a.m. and ending at 5 p.m. Officials hope to finish the recount by the end of Friday.